Rated PG - Running time: 1:32 - Released 2/12/99

Of the many TV-sitcom-turned-feature-films populating theatres lately, Disney's My Favorite Martian is perhaps one of the better ones, not only capitalizing on the current nostalgia craze, but more importantly adding one more plus to the Disney scorecard, whose negative side has been overloaded. Though the company continues to turn out at least one fantastic cartoon every year, recycling has become a standard tactic in the non-cartoon department, with everything from updated versions of the company's older films (That Darn Cat, Flubber), to live-action remakes of cartoon features (101 Dalmations, The Jungle Book, Pinnochio) to retooled TV cartoon shows (Mr. Magoo, George Of The Jungle, and the upcoming Inspector Gadget).

Directed by Donald Petrie (Mystic Pizza, Grumpy Old Men), Martian is a quick-paced farce with cute effects and lots of funny bits. The off-the-wall Christopher Lloyd seems a perfect choice for the title role (although original Martian Ray Walston is also in the film), but his portrayal differs only slightly from the Doc Brown character he played in the Back To The Future movies. Alongside Lloyd is Jeff Daniels as Tim O'Hara, the confused Earthling who must deal with an unexpected visit from the eccentric alien. Daniels is equally adequate, since "confused Earthling" is a stock role for him.

Daniels is Tim O'Hara, a TV news producer who witnesses the crash of an alien ship. When he investigates, he meets its pilot (Lloyd) who assumes human shape with the help of special chewing gum. Dubbing himself "Martin," he explains to Tim that he's not staying, but he must find a way to repair his ship and be on his way before the ship's automatic detonation device explodes and takes everyone with it. Tim knows that this is the story of the century, though, and he tries to make clandestine video recordings of "Martin" and his very animated spacesuit, Zoot (voice of Wayne Knight).

But Tim soon grows fond of the quirky creature, and decides to help him make a quiet escape. Unfortunately, his dippy news colleague, Brace Channing (Elizabeth Hurley), has caught on to what's happening and plans to cash in. Also in the mix is maniacal scientist Dr. E. Colai (Wallace Shawn), who wants to dissect the creature; Tim's ultra-wholesome camera operator, Lizzie (Daryl Hannah); and the mysterious man from SETI (Walston).

Though rather formulaic, Petrie's Martian is engaging enough, especially for the under-12 crowd and devotees of the '60s TV show. Penned by Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver, the story contains all the familiar elements for Disney features: overblown physical comedy, bumbling villains, and a honey-sweet love affair. There are many cool special effects using not only computer-generated animation, but puppetry and animatronics as well. Quite fluffy, but still fun. ****

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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